Unpublished Thatcher cabinet papers brought under the microscope

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
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An X-Files-style conspiracy is not behind the delayed release of cabinet papers from Margaret Thatcher’s final years in power, a minister has said.

Conservative frontbencher Rob Wilson told MPs conspiracy theories “run riot” in Parliament as he rejected concerns over the ability of Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and David Cameron’s policy chief Oliver Letwin to block the release of documents.

MPs heard the duo were both advisers during Mrs Thatcher’s government, including the period from 1986 to 1988 for which several Government documents are still to be made publicly available via the National Archives.

Labour’s Richard Burgon (Leeds East) said this meant issues of political importance, such as discussions on the poll tax and the Black Monday stock market crash, “remain secret”. He told a Westminster Hall debate: “There were decisions which senior ministers in the current Government were directly involved with.”

Mr Burgon also criticised the “extremist past” of some current Conservative MPs, with a pamphlet on NHS privatisation from Mr Letwin labelled “extreme” by shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh.

Mr Burgon replied: “You are right. I’m glad you have drawn to attention to this House the extremist past and I’d say the extremist present of some of those in this ideological Government, such an ideological Government. The pamphlet you are referring to is called the NHS: Britain’s Biggest Enterprise and in this pamphlet (Mr Letwin) calls for a health insurance scheme and implementing charging across the NHS. Shameful views thankfully not taken up by the current Government - yet.”